Have you ever done something and afterward said, "What was I thinking?" The answer is most often, "I wasn't thinking at all!" The French philosopher Descartes once posed proof for his existence with the famous "I think, therefore I am" argument. If that's the case, then many times my existence has to be called into question. Sometimes we just don’t think. Thinking is hard work and sometimes we bypass the effort and live on cruise control. That may work on a smooth, straight road, but we all know life is full of twists and turns that require careful thought. This is one reason why the Bible calls believers to be thoughtful people.
- Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
- Paul said, "I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind," and, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
- Peter said, "Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking."
Instead of using our minds we sometimes allow our feelings to dictate our actions (follow my heart), or we follow our instinct (I had a gut feeling) or we simply let things play themselves out (let the chips fall where they may). Not to be dismissive of the role of emotions, instinct and fate in our decision making process, I have observed that a well-lived, orderly, productive existence is the result of a thoughtful, mind-engaging approach to life.
Let me suggest some ways to foster this kind of life:
Eliminate noise - We live in a way too noisy world! We have televisions on, earbuds in, and music around us that make thinking difficult if not impossible. Turn off the noise and think about what you want for your life. One reason we resist this silence is that it appears to be so unproductive. Sitting there thinking looks like you're doing nothing, and that's the point. We are too obsessed with doing and too neglectful of thinking.
Resist impulsive behavior - Ask yourself, "How often is your first impulse the best course of action?" Instincts and impulses are designed primarily to help us react to dangerous situations, not to make life decisions. Avoid acting out in revenge. Avoid making quick decisions. Sometimes that first impulse could be right but pass it through the thought test first. Remember, thinking takes time but also remember that time given to thought can really help eliminate the pain of poor decisions hastily made.
Don’t always follow the crowd - Not many of us like to go out on our own so we often find ourselves doing things that everyone else is doing, so we follow the crowd. Sometimes the crowd knows where they're going, but sometimes they don’t! When we simply follow the crowd we are allowing someone else to do the thinking for us, and that could be tragic! Before jumping in line with everyone else ask yourself where this line is going. Never be afraid to go out on your own when thinking requires you to!
Evaluate habitual behavior - One reason we like habits and traditions is that these minimize thinking, but we must realize that some of our habitual behavior is wreaking havoc in our lives! What are some things that you do over and over without even thinking? Analyze the rhythm of your life and identify those habits you've developed and then subject them to thinking. Are these habits serving any real purpose? Are they keeping you from more productive behaviors? Are you really open to seeing things differently? Are you willing to make some changes? Some habits and traditions may be just fine, but some are just an excuse not to think!
The apostle Paul may be on to something when he said, "We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
What are you thinking?